Tuesday 6 March 2012

Review: - The Magician's Nephew by C.S Lewis

I’ve finally got around to reviewing the only thing I managed to read in February for the Telling Tales Challenge! Chronologically the first of C.S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, The Magician’s Nephew is actually the sixth in terms of publication and was written in order to explain how Narnia was created, and primarily how the famous lamppost came to be there. Whenever I write about a book that I’ve always loved I tend to assume that everybody else in the world has read it too. Most of the people I know in real life have read the Narnia books, but I’m sure that there will be somebody reading this who hasn’t managed to get around to it yet. If you haven’t read them, all I can say is that you really, really should.

A quick explanation, for anybody who doesn’t know and also because it’s been so long since I wrote a synopsis that I don’t know if I still can!

The seven books in the Narnia series are all based around religious analogy, with Aslan as the Jesus/creator figure, and The Magician’s Nephew shows the creation of Narnia and its’ beasts and how they come to talk. The main character is Diggory Kirke, a young boy (who later grows up to be the professor from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!) living with his aunt and uncle because his mother is very ill. He forms a friendship with his next door neighbour Polly Plummer, and together they start out to explore the attics of their houses. Their explorations get them into a difficult situation with Diggory’s creepy Uncle Andrew, a magician who has discovered a way to travel between different worlds, and tricks the children into trying it out for him...
I’m a giant fan of the original BBC adaptations of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair, and the film versions aren’t at all bad either. I always lamented the fact that they never made The Magician’s Nephew and lately I’ve been hearing rumours about it being turned into a film. Who knows if that will ever actually happen but I’ve always thought it would be brilliant. It’s got it all; a larger than life villain, mystery, magic, adventure, chase scenes, drama, and of course a happy ending.

As a kid I loved C.S Lewis, and re-reading The Magician’s Nephew as an adult I loved it for different reasons. This time around I really enjoyed the religious aspect because it is so obvious if you know it’s there, but at the same time it’s completely possible to read the Narnia books, especially The Magician’s Nephew, without realising that they are religious at all. Because it is a book that I knew so well as a child it was brilliant to re-read as an adult, and parts of it made me smile as I read them, because sentences and phrases came back to me and I could see myself aged about seven, during the phase where I used to keep books in the end of my bed underneath my soft toys, because I couldn’t bear to be parted from them, reading the same paragraphs by torchlight way after the lights should have been out. This is part of the reason I love rereading so much. Recently, Jillian wrote a post about how reading books connects us to other people, and I feel like rereading connects me to myself at different ages. It’s kind of nice to know that although a lot of things aren’t how I pictured them being when I was a child, my life is still turning out pretty well so far!

I like Lewis’ writing style a lot too, and he’s very good at depicting children’s reactions to things. I also adore the fact that neither Diggory nor Polly ever question the possibility of there being other worlds, they pretty much just accept that there are. When you are a child you are so full of possibilities that pretty much anything could turn out to be real without bothering you too much. When you grow up, though, nothing can happen without you questioning its’ possibility, rationality and logic. If it isn’t logical, it isn’t possible, and that kind of thinking is why I’m doing my best not to grown up!

Narnia has got to be pretty much the ultimate escapism. It’s definitely right up there with Harry Potter in terms of amazing things you’d really like to be true, and aside from references to obscure items of clothing and foods nobody eats anymore, it’s amazing how little the Chronicles of Narnia have dated. Considering they were published well over 50 years ago, the themes set up in The Magician’s Nephew are still really relevant today. It’s basically about good versus evil and the importance of standing up for what you believe in. Although as a child I didn’t know that it wasn’t written first, on rereading it, it seems clearly more mature in tone than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and made me want to reread The Last Battle, about which I remember virtually nothing except something about dwarves and a door, and which scared me so almightily with its’ theology on first reading that from then on I read books 1 – 6 and vehemently denied the existence of the seventh book.

Apparently I’m finding it difficult to actually stay focused on The Magician’s Nephew and have digressed to talking about the series as a whole. Perhaps this is fitting: The Magician’s Nephew is the introduction to Narnia after all, and the book which sets up the premise from which all the others follow. Short and to the point, it contains two subjects of my childhood nightmares – Uncle Andrew, and Jadis, who later becomes the white witch, were both absolutely terrifying to me as a child and although I’m no longer scared of them the descriptions of both of them are still enough to give me the shivers.

In the great Lewis vs. Tolkien debate, despite my love of Lord of the Rings (and I really do love it), I’d have to say from the point of view of what affected my life in terms of morals, ethics and imagination, I’m firmly in the Lewis camp. I do think that every child should be read The Chronicles of Narnia, whether or not they are religious, because they are brilliant, imaginative, captivating stories which subtly contain real issues and dilemmas.

I don’t think I’m going to need to write too much about the rest of the books after that, but hey, I finally got around to writing a review! 


  1. What a great and informative post! I am one of the few who has always intended to read CS Lewis' series of books, (I came real close my first year in college!) but I never did.

    By the way, you still can write a pretty decent synopsis! ;-)

    You've motivated me. Once I finish the two books I recently checked out from the local library, I'll be looking for Lewis.

    Did you ever see the film, "Shadowlands" with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger? It's a conical-if you will of Lewis' last marriage.m It deals with both love and loss. Good stuff.

    I also liked what you said about reading bringing you closer to yourself. I think that is so true. I find that many times if I am uncertain, or upset about something going on in my life, I tend to go back to the books of my childhood.

    The stories remind me of the dreams and hopes I had as a kid, and although many of those did not materialize in my adulthood, it's good to know that I still can dream and reflect on what I have accomplished.


  2. Hi Bree, I'm glad you've been inspired and I hope you really enjoy the books!
    I've seen part of Shadowlands, but I keep meaning to watch the whole of it as I always seem to catch the end on T.V..I do love Lewis's writing style, and I'm quite interested in reading his other work, although I know that some of it is quite deep theological stuff and I don't know how I'd handle that! It would be interesting though.

  3. Go for it Bex! It's fun when you can apply what you've learned in Psychology to these texts.

    My favorite class at University was Psychology & Religion. It really challenged me to think. Although, I didn't enjoy the HUGE term paper we had to write! ;-)